Newtown Hall Castle Motte
Newtown Hall Castle Motte

In 1277 Roger de Mortimer, the powerful Earl of Wigmore, attacked Llewelyn ap Gruffydd's fortress of Dolforwyn Castle, in the hills above the River Severn south-west of Welshpool. Mortimer succeeded in capturing Llewlyn's fortress and the planned town that surrounded it. The capture of Dolforwyn Castle was the first step in Edward I's campaign to wrest Wales from Welsh hands and claim overlordship of the country.

In gratitude for Mortimer's victory, Edward granted him the right to establish a new planned town, with the valuable right to hold a regular market and annual fairs. Mortimer chose to build his new town by the River Severn in the valley below Dolforwyn, where a chapel already stood.

Here, around 1280, he laid out the streets of what would become Newtown, or Y Drenewydd in Welsh.

To defend his new town Mortimer erected a motte and bailey fortification defended by earthwork banks. 1280 is a very late date for a motte and bailey castle; the motte and bailey design was popular with the Normans in the years following their conquest of England but by the 13th century most mottes had been rebuilt as stone castles, or simply abandoned.

Remains of the bailey earthworks
Remains of the bailey earthworks

That might suggest that Mortimer simply strengthened an existing motte rather than building a new stone castle.

The motte consists of a D-shaped mound measuring 55m x 35m at the base and 40m x 15m on top. The mound rises about 4 metres above a wide ditch that encircles its base. There is no ditch on the north-west side but whether that is simply the effects of later alterations of part of the original design is unclear.

In 1910 excavations revealed the ruins of a stone structure. This is likely to date to the Civil War period when Sir John Pryce of Newtown Hall fortified the motte on behalf of Parliament. You can see pieces of the stone foundations poking up through the earth in the cleared area on top of the mound.

The motte is overgrown with trees, but you can easily climb to its top. You can also see what appears to be the remains of earthworks stretching away from the mound to the north-west.

The castle motte stands in a public park formed from the grounds of Newtown Hall, home of the Pryce family. The motte probably served as an ornamental garden feature, or folly, within the landscaped grounds. Unfortunately, the landscaping swept away almost all traces of the bailey enclosure, which was thought to extend almost to the river. It also removed half of the mound, creating the D-shape we see today.

The castle can be viewed at any time and is a very short walk from the main Newtown visitor car park on Back Lane.

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About Newtown Hall Castle Motte
Address: Newtown Hall Park, Newtown, Powys, Wales
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: Behind Newtown Hall in the Park, near the public parking area on Back Lane. The nearest post code is SY16 1NS.
Location map
OS: SO107914
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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